Central Queenslanders interested in a health care career will soon be able to study in the Central Highlands thanks to the establishment of a University Department of Rural Health at Emerald, announced on Wednesday by the federal government.
The coalition government is providing $10 million to James Cook University to establish the department, which will offer local education and training for allied health students.
The new facility is being hailed as improving the distribution of the health workforce in the region, and providing more access to healthcare professionals for local patients.
Federal Regional Health Minister David Gillespie and Member for Flynn, Ken O'Dowd, visiting Emerald to make the announcement, said the new centre would be a boon for regional Queensland.
"The establishment of the Central Queensland Centre for Rural and Remote Health in Emerald will build on their success with educating student in regional, rural and remote locations and give students access to tertiary education and training locally," Mr O'Dowd said.
"We know people who study and have a positive training experience in the bush are more likely to stay and practice in the bush."
Dr Gillespie, formerly regional doctor for more than 30 years, said the new campus was the 17th UDRH in regional Australia but only the third in Queensland.
"Our government is acutely aware of the need to boost regional workforce and training opportunities, which is why we focus on establishing these UDRHs where there are gaps in what health care training people can access locally," Dr Gillespie said.
CQCRRH will firstly establish training sites in Emerald and service-learning outreach in the surrounding Gemfields regions, strongly focused on primary care.
"Initial courses planned for rollout include nursing, first and final years of pharmacy, occupational therapy, entry to practice psychology, and a Diploma of Education," Mr O'Dowd said.
Dr Gillespie said the UDRH will be locally led, and expansion beyond Emerald to Biloela is already planned for 2023.
Mr O'Dowd said it was pleasing that JCU will purchase housing in Emerald to provide accommodation facilities for allied health, nursing, midwifery, and dental students from other areas to undertake clinical placements locally.
Dr Gillespie said the $10 million was provided under the government's Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training program.
"Right across regional Australia, the RHMT program offers health students the opportunity to train in rural and remote communities via a network of training facilities," he said.
The new UDRH will also undertake targeted enrolment, mentoring and support strategies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students; build Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership roles in RHMT activities and will contribute to improved local health outcomes of rural and remote communities, particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
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